NATIONAL CABINET STATEMENT 29/3/20

Prime Minister:

Australian governments met again today as the National Cabinet to take further action to slow the spread of coronavirus to save lives and to save livelihoods.

We will be living with this virus for at least six months, so social distancing measures to slow this virus down must be sustainable for at least that long to protect Australian lives and help Australia to keep functioning. 

National Cabinet noted the latest statistics and medical advice in relation to coronavirus.

Our public health measures are taking effect, with over 211,000 tests undertaken and 3,966 confirmed cases in Australia. 

The rate of increase in the virus curve is slowing, but overall numbers are still increasing. While the majority of cases in Australia are connected to travellers returning to Australia from overseas, there has been some sustained community transmission in areas of Sydney and Melbourne.

National Cabinet noted the extensive work underway to procure more masks, ventilators, gloves, gowns and hand sanitiser from both international suppliers and domestic manufacturers. National Cabinet further noted that the Commonwealth had announced a package of $1.1 billion to boost mental health services, domestic violence support, Medicare assistance for people at home and emergency food relief. 

National Cabinet welcomed the new coronavirus app and WhatsApp channel that were released today by the Commonwealth Government. The app is now available on Apple and Android devices. The WhatsApp channel can be accessed by entering aus.gov.au/whatsapp into your internet browser.

These new platforms provide a trusted source of information for Australians looking for important advice on how they can protect themselves and others, current restrictions on social gatherings, how they can access support and the latest data on Australian cases. 

The app also allows Australians to voluntarily register if they are self-isolating to provide governments with important information to protect public health and safety. 

National Cabinet noted that there have been significant measures put in place that restrict gatherings including limits on retail premises. In some jurisdictions, retail outlets need to be prepared for further measures and adapt to different ways of engaging customers such as online and home delivery services.

 

Indoor and Outdoor Public gatherings

National Cabinet agreed to limit both indoor and outdoor gatherings to two persons only. 

Exceptions to this limit include:

  • People of the same household going out together;
  • Funerals - a maximum of 10 people; 
  • Wedding - a maximum of 5 people;
  • Family units. 

Individual states and territories may choose to mandate and/or enforce this requirement. 

National Cabinet’s strong guidance to all Australians is to stay home unless for:

  • shopping for what you need - food and necessary supplies;
  • medical or health care needs, including compassionate requirements;
  • exercise in compliance with the public gathering requirements;
  • work and study if you can’t work or learn remotely.

National Cabinet agreed that playgrounds, skate parks and outside gyms in public places will be closed. Bootcamps will be reduced to two persons, including the trainer. 

These measures will be in place from midnight tomorrow night. 

 

Social Distancing - further measures

National Cabinet discussed further restrictions on activities and venues. Overseas experience indicates further restrictions on personal movement and businesses will be required should the severity of the outbreak worsen in Australia.

States and territories agreed they would implement further measures specific to their own region, including closing categories of venues, where medical advice supported this action. These measures would be risk-based and targeted at non-essential activities.

Australians will still be able to access the goods and services needed to safely and sustainably live their lives.

 

Advice for Senior Australians including those with existing health conditions

The care and wellbeing of senior Australians remains a priority in this uncertain time.  

All Australians respect and value the contribution that older Australians make to our community. 

Coronavirus has more serious impacts on older Australians, those over 70 years of age and Australians with existing health conditions or comorbidities.

National Cabinet’s strong advice is for self-isolation at home to the maximum extent practicable for Australians:

  • over 70 years of age; 
  • over 60 years of age who have existing health conditions or comorbidities;
  • indigenous Australians over the age of 50 who have existing health conditions or comorbidities. 

These groups should limit contact with others as much as possible when they travel outside.

 

Commercial and residential tenancies

As part of its work on helping businesses hibernate, National Cabinet agreed that short-term intervention is needed for commercial tenancies. Work on this has begun, but there is more to do, including for residential tenancies. 

National Cabinet agreed to a moratorium on evictions over the next six months for commercial and residential tenancies in financial distress who are unable to meet their commitments due to the impact of coronavirus. 

Commercial tenants, landlords and financial institutions are encouraged to sit down together to find a way through to ensure that businesses can survive and be there on the other side. As part of this, National Cabinet agreed to a common set of principles, endorsed by Treasurers, to underpin and govern intervention to aid commercial tenancies as follows:

  • a short term, temporary moratorium on eviction for non-payment of rent to be applied across commercial tenancies impacted by severe rental distress due to coronavirus;
  • tenants and landlords are encouraged to agree on rent relief or temporary amendments to the lease;
  • the reduction or waiver of rental payment for a defined period for impacted tenants;
  • the ability for tenants to terminate leases and/or seek mediation or conciliation on the grounds of financial distress;
  • commercial property owners should ensure that any benefits received in respect of their properties should also benefit their tenants in proportion to the economic impact caused by coronavirus;
  • landlords and tenants not significantly affected by coronavirus are expected to honour their lease and rental agreements; and
  • cost-sharing or deferral of losses between landlords and tenants, with Commonwealth, state and territory governments, local government and financial institutions to consider mechanisms to provide assistance.

National Cabinet will meet again on Monday 30th March 2020.

Governments Must Not Shut Down Civil Construction Sector

Joint Media Statement - Australian Workers’ Union & Master Builders Association 27/3/02

The AWU and Master Builders Australia are jointly calling on governments to ensure the building and construction industry continues to operate, because without it the economic knock-on effects would be devastating on a scale that would dwarf what we have seen to date. 

The shutdown of the construction industry would jeopardise not just those employed directly, but the whole livelihoods of millions of Australians employed in precarious sectors like manufacturing. It would devastate nationally important industries in the building supply chain, like the $30 billion steel industry.

Forcing the industry’s closure would also blunt the impact of federal, state and territory government stimulus packages as infrastructure projects would immediately grind to a halt. Civil construction, in particular, must continue to build the nation and can do so safely given the nature of its sites. 

Indeed, the catastrophic threat of a construction shutdown means the whole construction industry has a civic duty to impress upon authorities it can operate while ensuring compliance with social distancing and hygiene requirements.

That means everyone in the industry has to step up and be accountable. Construction companies and project managers must ensure that protocols at their site are enforced. Construction workers owe it to each other and their families to be responsible and do the right thing. This is only the only way the industry can continue working while reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission. 

In times of crisis people look to unions, industry, and government to work together. We have to show we can not only slow the spread of COIVID-19 but ensure there's an economy left when the crisis is over. 

Scott Morrison Media Release 27/3/20

Prime Minister, Scott Morrison announced a plan to “hibernate Australian business” during the coronavirus crisis. He also said every Australian returning home from overseas will now be quarantined to hotels or other facilities in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.

Read full media release here.

25/3/20 Prime Minister Morrison announced further restrictions

25/3/20

Last night Prime Minister Morrison announced further restrictions which will apply throughout the community from midnight tonight (25 March 2020).

Whilst the Building and Construction Industry remains largely unaffected by the Prime Minister’s latest announcement, particular note should be made to the following:

Auction Houses - closed from midnight 25 March 2020.  Real Estate auctions and open house inspections – by private appointment only

Whilst no specific mention was made of display homes, it would be appropriate to open them by appointment only.

To read the full list of restrictions click here

NSW government passes flexible long service leave changes

25/3/20

Yesterday, the NSW Parliament passed changes to the long service leave law which will create greater flexibility for employers and employees to access leave during the on-going COVID-19 crisis.

The amendments to the Long Service Leave Act 1955 will allow employees to take leave in shorter blocks, such as one day a week, and without the traditional one-month notice period, by agreement with their employer.

NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, who introduced the changes into the NSW Parliament, said the flexibility was very important during a time when businesses are looking at every option to keep staff on their books.

“These changes will provide another way for businesses to help maintain their workforce during what will be an extended period of disruption,” Mr Perrottet said.

“We expect this to be an option which will help people get through the next few months and effectively put money in their weekly budgets.” 

The legislation took effect for six months from yesterday with the possibility of an extension to one year.

Letter from NSW Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, to the construction industry

Below is a letter from the NSW Treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, to the construction industry. It sets out the NSW Government’s determination to continue to deliver the NSW infrastructure pipeline during this COVID-19 event. Infrastructure NSW and Government agencies charged with delivering the infrastructure program have been in discussions about how to best work cooperatively with the industry to maintain cash flow, employment and delivery on our projects. Read letter here

No Shutdown of the Building and Construction Industry 22/3/20

There was NO shutdown of the building and construction industry announced following the meeting of the National Cabinet on Covid-19 (which comprises the PM, State Premiers and Territory Chief Ministers) on 22 March 2020. Read more on this and other stimulus measures for the industry. 

New COVID-19 restrictions begin but construction sites exempt 23/3/20

23/3/20

Media Release from Gladys Berejiklian - 

In line with health advice, from midday today, the following non-essential activities and businesses will be temporarily shut down:

  • Pubs, registered clubs
  • Gyms, indoor sporting venues
  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and night clubs
  • Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
  • Religious gatherings, places of worship (excluding small weddings and funerals that comply with the 4m2 rule, which can proceed).

It is important to note essential gatherings at places such as hospitals, workplaces, constructions sites and for public transport are exempt and will continue.

Read full press release here.

NSW stimulus package to help mitigate coronavirus impact

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the stimulus package is designed to keep people in jobs throughout the corona crisis and to boost a range of medical services throughout the State.  

As part of the recently announced measures, $450 million has been allocated to waive payroll tax for businesses with payrolls of up to $10 million for three months.

Master Builders understands that this will become effective from May 2020, which means these businesses will not have to pay payroll tax for the rest of the financial year.

The next round of payroll tax cuts has also been brought forward.  This means that for the next financial year 2020-2021, the threshold limit for a business in NSW to have to pay payroll tax will be $1 million. 

Other parts of the stimulus package include:

  • $80 million for fees and charges to be waived for small businesses such as cafes, restaurants and those in trades;
  • $250 million for public schools and state-owned buildings to employ more cleaners;
  • NSW Health will receive $700 million to help double the capacity of intensive care units State-wide.
     

PM stating that construction sites are an essential service and will remain open

The Prime Minister in his statement updating the community on Coronavirus measures explicitly stated that construction sites are an essential service and will remain open. 

In reference to non-essential gatherings of greater than 100 people not being permitted from 20 March, the Prime Minister stated that: 

“This does not apply to essential activities such as public transportation facilities, medical and health care facilities, pharmacies, emergency service facilities, correctional facilities, youth justice centres or other places of custody, courts or tribunals, Parliaments, food markets, supermarkets and grocery stores, shopping centres, office buildings, factories, construction sites, and mining sites, where it is necessary for their normal operation (although other social distancing and hygiene practices may be required in these settings).”

The full statement can be found on the Prime Minister’s website https://www.pm.gov.au/media/update-coronavirus-measures